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Tire Guide

When using winter tires all year is a good idea

There are situations that justify using winter tires all year long.

Published May 9, 2012
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Tire guy John Mahler answers readers’ tire questions for Wheels.

Q. My sister has a 1997 Chevrolet Malibu with 67,000 kilometres on it and the tires need replacing due to circumferential cracking at the base of the tread grooves. Clearly she doesn’t drive much and rarely outside of the city.

I have suggested that she purchase a set of winter tires and leave them on all year as it will give her far superior traction in the winter than the P215/60R15 all-season tires on the car now. Even though they will wear more quickly than an all-season or summer tire, it’s unlikely that she’ll wear them out before they are due for replacement from old age.

I realize there may be some loss of ultimate performance but she is a very sedate driver and don’t think this will be an issue. I have a minor concern about road noise and was going to look for a tire with a non-aggressive tread pattern. Your thoughts?

A. Your idea is excellent. For the mileage, you suggest a winter tire that will do just fine being on the car all year. The wear factor will not be enough to make much difference. Just keep in mind, the winter tire will have less grip in summer than an all-season tire. You must check the pressures regularly.

Fifteen-inch winter tires are now becoming scarce, so it comes down to just two that fit the bill, the General Arctic Altimax and the Firestone Winterforce. Both have very similar tread patterns so you do not have much choice. There will be more road noise, but nothing excessive. Both these tires have tread patterns that look like all-season tires when they first came on the market. All winter tires that work in the snow will have a slightly aggressive pattern, that’s what makes them work.

Q. We live in Toronto and my fiancée goes to school in Buffalo. He was gifted a 2001 Saab 9-3. While my fiancée loves the car, it has needed a significant investment to keep running. We’d like to get winter tires for the car for safety reasons. The Saab will likely only last another year or two if we are lucky we don’t want to get stuck with a set of tires we can’t use.

We looked at purchasing a 2012 Hyundai Accent GL hatchback earlier this year when we thought the Saab wasn’t going to make it. Would we be able to use winter tires from the Saab on the Accent when the time comes? Or, would buying used winter tires be a smarter investment?

A. Since you indeed intend to ditch the Saab, I suggest you buy used tires for it. The Saab runs on P195/60R15 series tires. The new Hyundai Accent can run on anything from 14 to 16-inch diameter tires, none of which have a Saab compatible size. The diameters just are not close enough to make a swap. When buying used tires check the date codes to make sure, they are only a couple of years old.

Q. I have a ‘76 Pontiac Trans Am, bought new. It runs on 17-inch cast “Smokey and the Bandit” style wheels. It needs new tires. I got a recommendation for BFGoodrich g-Force KDW, size P275/40R17, which are kind of expensive — $300 a pop plus tax. What are the alternatives?

A. Prices on the BFG’s are about $273 at 1010Tire.com. That’s a Canadian site and the prices represent what the tires can usually be bought for around the GTA. Good site to bookmark. The BFG KDW’s look the part for the 76 Trans-Am, they are big gnarly tread blocks. Personally, I think they look better on a truck.

So as for what I’d consider, in order: Bridgestone Potenza RE760 Sport ($231),Continental ExtremeContact DWS ($238), Toyo Proxes Prox4 ($202), Fuzion ZRi ($200) and finally the BFGoodrich G-Force KDW ($273).

Of course, the ultimate in this size is the Michelin Pilot Sport PS2, but at $417, I don’t think it is in the running. It is better than the rest but not much, so the price is totally out of line. The Fuzion is a sub-brand of Bridgestone, sort of one price step down, but the brand generally performs above its price point. Major criticism is hard ride and noise. Those things may not matter with the windows down, the dual pipes rumbling and some good rock on the eight-track.

The bargain in the lineup is the Toyo. It too is a bit loud but that’s about all the negative things I can find. The Bridgestone has the newest, latest tech, then the Conti, then the Toyo.

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